Roughly two weeks in and some of us may still be wondering if the disaster that struck is just a case of what-ifs and what-might-have-beens. However, a greater majority of us would be right to say that there’s really not much point to say that preventive measures were not in place – blame is irrelevant at this time. “What could have been” statements and finger-pointing press releases and interviews do not make significant value to help us through. Instead, they only make a menacing impact on the state’s incompetence.
The foreign news correspondents have nothing to do with this anymore – not Anderson Cooper, not BBC, not The Guardian. If we look at it closely, even our local news people and the thousands of netizens have their fair share of observation and things to say: that the pleas for help get even more resonating than when it started. Millions cry of hunger and these survivors remain homeless, while their cries have reached everywhere.
As we listen and act upon these cries, there is but one that we notice to be “unmoved” by them. From what we observed, the Presidential Palace’s response to the aftermath of this catastrophe seems a bit lukewarm. The way we have seen how The President took the blow of this calamity looked baffling and made too many of us asking why – needless to say some took the liberty into bluntly criticising his actions (and lack thereof). The vastness of the decimation brought by this disaster did not seem to get right in the faces of the people in the administration.
It is just as infuriating for us to learn how they seem to be unmindful of what has been going about. While everyone else is buzzing to get the relief and clearing operations moving in Tacloban, the other hardly hit areas within the Visayas region were “ignored”. We had to learn it from the correspondents and a few people on Social Media that there are small islands in Northern Cebu, a great part of the Aklan province, and a few other areas were just as devastated but had been without food and shelter for days. And that no government agency has reached out to their aid.
When CNN’s Christiane Amanpour got a hold of an interview with President Aquino, the latter looked to be putting everyone, including Amanpour herself, under the impression that his government is totally in control of the situation. However, the real situation in the Visayas was beyond his story – by a mile. This unlikely and unconvincing interview brought the President’s much-boasted popularity quickly sliding down the sewers.
Nearly a week in following the ravaging of the typhoon – and must I say that being hungry and thirsty for that long could be hell, with the entire planet seeing this – President Aquino made an announcement that he’s taking over the relief and clearing operations. There would have been some applause somewhere, but no. His taking charge of the situation looked to the public as that of their implied acknowledgement of their failure to respond efficiently and strategically [to the aftermath of the disaster]. This has even caused more frustration and anger from the people. President Aquino’s so-called charisma took a full turn and got screwed.
Was he struggling to get his hands on the situation and take control? We will find out the answer once we have taken a closer look at the current situation in the Visayas– now that we’re nearly two weeks in. We’re all pretty much welcome to make an inference to how he has been doing – except that some of us may think he could just be doing a messy pile of things over what is already chaotic.
If I am to give the President the benefit of the doubt, yes, even I could not expect to rise and take a stance from such a disaster right away.
If President Aquino failed to shake his own disbelief off to start thinking reasonably of the things that need to be implemented for an efficient recovery, would we not forgive him?
The thing that bothers me most is that when I looked at that CNN interview again, I just noticed how he was trying to clumsily reach everywhere to make it look like he’s in control. More like a klutz walking in the kitchen, half-awake, trying not to stumble by holding on to the kettle on the stove – ouch!
When he read in a report that the estimated death toll reached 10,000, he was a bit indignant in saying that it must be too high, the police director who presented the number was then relieved. The interview also showed that he was too over-the-moon about his “zero-death” structure in brainstorming before the typhoon. He said that at the time [of the interview] the reported deaths were at a thousand and was not to likely increase.
He was wrong. These were only news reports within Tacloban alone, the city in focus. The figures in Capiz, Iloilo, Cebu, Palawan, Aklan, and other ravaged areas were not even estimated yet. As of this writing, the death toll reports reached to more or less 3600 and still counting. This makes us question the President once more. There must be something going on under his nose that he isn’t aware of.
Are the President’s appointed points-of-contact giving him a different report in fear of being relieved from their duties?
Are they guarding this information?
Are they afraid that the President might throw a real fit if he reads about the “real” number of casualties compared to what he has been obsessively anticipating?
Does the President’s struggling post-Haiyan reputation still matter to his staff that they have to project a report less grimacing than the truth?
Right within the same period, six days in following Yolanda, we see DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in the outskirts of Tacloban – doing their ground assessment, probably.
We are aware that Mar had been in Tacloban the day before the typhoon. Your face is probably going to hurt from cringing too much but we have heard reports from hotel guests that Mar just walked past them when they were crying for help. Was he even bothered by what was about to come when Haiyan‘s finally gone to the sea? Probably not. And then he was unreachable by news correspondent for days following that incident.
In Manila though, ABS CBN News Anchor Korina Sanchez indignantly refuted Anderson Cooper’s report about the lack of an organised government response in Tacloban. That made her an overnight sensation – in a non-praiseworthy sense. Anderson Cooper seemed to have become a champion of unbiased journalism, while netizens were thrashing Korina.
This incident also took toll on the President. Imagine, someone reporting an observation from the area itself, while across the sea there was a journalist-broadcaster [and wife of a government official who happened to also be in the same area] lambasting him. Oh, that’s bad news. Cooper reported his observations, the government was criticised. The wife of the Interior Secretary was butt-hurt. She was probably thinking, “How dare you say that! My husband, the Interior Secretary, is there!”
You might also have noticed how President Aquino seem to be so obsessed over how the Local Government Units have failed to respond to its constituents after the storm. Blame…. blame… blame game – is that his favourite pastime?
Truth is Tacloban’s mayor; Alfred Romualdez is not just from the opposition. He is a descendant of the family that the Aquinos have long had a political battle against. Do you see where the President is coming from?
Come to think of it, the poor mayor lives in the same city, in the same province as his constituents. What are the chances that he and the rest of the Tacloban City Hall were not victims of the typhoon here? Fat chance. What made the President think that Alfred was not taking responsibility immediately after the storm?
This entire LGU-blaming has resonated more on how Roxas talked in his interviews, which were a bit timely – six or seven days after the storm. Has the Malacañang failed to organise a more efficient post-disaster response that the City Mayor has to take the fall, and the wrath of the President?
Immediately following this disaster-relief-fiasco, the President’s initials have been translated into obscenity in Social Media – from Benigno Simeon to Bull Shit… and loads of it. The Internet has celebrated his virtual crucifixion along with his “peers” within the government and media.
As I close my notes on this observation, I silently offer my prayers for the eternal repose of the souls of those who passed away. May your spirits be all in the unbroken circle of blessedness. I pay tribute to the survivors, for bearing unimaginable strength to keep fighting for life. I thank the compassionate citizens of this world and their organisations who knew better than to sit around and feel for our nation – they instead acted with reason and kind hearts to give whatever they could to the victims of this monstrous disaster that almost erased the Visayas from the map.
We praise these people because they deserve it. They deserve to be acknowledged for being strong and faithful during these “questioning” times. And this is what we are supposed to do – pay them respect not because our President may have failed to be with them and help right then and there – because we are human beings.
My heart is moved witnessing how the entire human race has joined all their efforts for the Philippines. I cry every time I read the news and watch the clips on the Internet.
Moreover, I feel terrible for our country’s leader because it is going to take more courage for him to face the truth – that somehow he failed to be our leader, our “employee”, our brother, our friend, our father. He failed and he just proved to be an immaterial figure in our country.
For some of us, he is not our leader anymore; he’s just someone in a coveted position who fell short of the people’s expectations.